Imagine 3,035 hungry college students with one dining hall and a small coffee shop. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
Sitting in the rural hills of Moraga, St. Mary’s College of California is a secluded campus that students stay on all day. With roughly 3,000 undergraduate students, the on campus dining hall becomes very crowded. The breakfast, dinner, and lunch lines are usually backed up to the door in Oliver Hall. Once you are lucky enough to get inside to the food options, there are more lines to wait in. When grabbing a quick snack, it is nearly impossible to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while rubbing elbows with a classmate.
While St. Mary’s does offer the option of Café Louis, sometimes a student needs more fuel than a cup of coffee and a pastry. Café Louis runs off of the student’s flex dollars and real money, but not their meal plan. Flex dollars are considered money that is stored on a student’s ID card. This can be helpful when looking for energy or a small snack, but many students do not look at Café Louis as another food option on campus. The possibility of running out of flex dollars can happen very early in the semester.
St. Mary’s students are currently paying:
Carte Blanche (unlimited) + $75 Flex: $6,210
14 meals per week + $75 Flex: $6,050
10 meals per week + 150 Flex: $5,900
8 meals per week +150 Flex: $5,570
5 meals per week +100 Flex: $4,020
*meals per week, price per year
These meal plan fees are on top of room and board, as well as $39, 740 for tuition. The amount of money being sent to the school through meal plans and tuition, St. Mary’s should be able to provide another dining hall for their students.
When comparing St. Mary’s to a similar sized school, it is easy to see the reality of having another dining hall on campus. Allegheny College has 2,140 undergraduate students paying $39,100 for tuition and is located in a Pennsylvanian town.
Allegheny College students are currently paying:
Plan A- 215 meals + $195 Flex $5,260
Plan B -125 meals + $735 Flex $4,990
Plan C -165 meals + $330 Flex $4,700
Plan D -90 meals + $740 Flex $4,700
Plan F -80 meals + $570 Flex $3,800
Plan G -110 meals + $270 Flex $3,600
Plan H -30 meals + $110 Flex $1,100
Plan I -260 meals + $95 Flex $5,590
Plan J -90 meals + $1,060 Flex $5,390
Plan K -30 meals + $315 Flex $1,560
*meals per semester, price per year
Not only are there less undergraduate students and the meal plans cost less, but the students of Allegheny College have two different dining halls to choose from. Brooks Dining Hall provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner and will only count as a one meal deduction. The other option for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night is at McKinleys Food Court. McKinleys works off of flex dollars and students will be charged per item. Having two dining halls at Allegheny allows from students to have more options as well as a less crowded dining experience.
St. Mary’s students are paying more for their meal plans, more for tuition, and also have more undergraduate students on campus than Allegheny College, but only have one dining hall. It is only fair that St. Mary’s students feel that they are being overcharged for the experience that they receive. “Sometimes after waiting in line there ends up being no more milk left for cereal because the 8am classes got to it first” said senior Anna Turpit. Because of the crowds and long lines, staff members are unable to stock certain areas fast enough for the amount of students rushing in.
Spending one day following a busy St. Mary’s student, it would be clear to anyone that the school could benefit from another full service dining hall on campus. The enrollment is the highest it has ever been and students are paying more than enough to receive more food options. As a St. Mary’s student myself, another full service dining hall would create a less stressful dining experience for students. There would be less long lines, more food options, and more space to move throughout the dining area.